What's it like living in a theatre?

We chat to Ed MacArthur and Nenda Neurer about whether living in actors’ digs drives them crazy

Ed MacArthur and Nenda Neurer in The Borrowers
Ed MacArthur and Nenda Neurer in The Borrowers
© Philip Tull

There are certain theatre hubs that offer the chance for actors to live and work on site. One of the most famous examples is, of course, the Royal Shakespeare Company, but the Watermill Theatre in Newbury also hosts its casts and crew for the rehearsal period and show run. Does it drive them crazy? We asked two performers, currently starring in The Borrowers, to dish the dirt.

Ed MacArthur

This morning on our WhatsApp group, someone messaged us to let us know to be careful of the goose on the way into work. You don't get that at the National Theatre. It wasn't that the goose was particularly vicious, he's just a little entitled – to be fair to him, the ducks live here all year round, unlike us.

I'm currently living in a cottage and there's four of us in there, then there's an actor's cottage, a flat and someone also stays with the artistic director Paul Hart, who also lives on site. Then there's a lot of options to live in local homes nearby. It's about two months in total that you're here, and it's very peaceful and comfortable. You also lose the miserable commute where you feel grumpy and depressed.

I think it's obvious when a cast is quite good mates. If you're devising work, and it's playful, you want to feel relaxed around each other. It's really helpful in getting to know each other a bit better.

The audiences also have a really strong connection with the theatre. I was in a show earlier this year and there was a mime section at the beginning and as we walked on we got a round of applause. Then someone shouted from the back "Don't clap, they haven't said anything yet!". The audience behaves like it's their theatre in a really reassuring way. They are very loyal. They come here a lot.

Nenda Neurer

It's literally the best thing living here. You get out of bed in the morning and there you are in your rehearsal room. It's a lovely environment, where everyone is just so supportive and inclusive. It feels like a little family. If you ever feel like it's too much you can go outside and speak to the ducks and sit by the river.

We meet up a lot, whether it's for tea or wine or to watch Stranger Things together. The local pub gets used to each cast group and then the new group come in and they get to know the next one. It's a nice web of people who we can hang out with.

I can imagine it's possible to get on each other's nerves in an environment where you're living and working together, but I've not experienced it so far. People go away at the weekends so you can get out if you need a bit of space.

The Borrowers runs at the Watermill Theatre until 31 December.

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